The next morning we headed north up the coast to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Our campground neighbors said that we had to see Fern Canyon, a short 0.6 mile walk filled with jaw-dropping greenery. This is a popular spot for tourists.
The mostly level switch-back trail had several narrow, wooden planks to walk on to keep your feet dry.
The cascading fern growing out of the canyon walls were stunning.
There are longer trails that branch off from Fern Canyon Trail, but we decided to head back up to the beach instead. It seemed like forever to reach the ocean, especially when carrying two chairs!
The water was much too cold for swimming or even wading, but we made sure that we got a selfie.
I don’t recall seeing flowers growing in the sand at the beaches in New Jersey.
The next morning we found ourselves back on the road again heading north along the coast. It wasn’t long until we reached our next state.
After a few hours on Hwy 1, we stopped to take a break at Pistol River Viewpoint, and took a short walk on the beach. I wanted to see the Oregon Coast firsthand.
It was a shorter walk to the water this time. There was a grassy, sandy trail leading first to a sandbar and then to the ocean.
We took a short walk to stretch our legs and then got back into the truck. After another five hours on the road, we finally found Perkins Point Rest Area just off Tiller Trail Highway, also known as Douglas County Hwy 1.
You are allowed to spend no more than 12 hours at these stops. It was almost 8:00 p.m at night, and we just wanted a place to sleep for the night. We parked in the corner of the empty lot and realized that there was a beautiful stream just below us. Scott took off down the hill to investigate.
“Our trailer is right up there,” he said.
It was almost 7:00 p.m. but it was still fairly light out. We stood by the waterside watching salamanders and crawdads (crayfish) enjoying their habitat.
It was getting dark, and I was feeling the chill in the air. Scott stayed by the water, and I walked back up to sit in the trailer. There I was, minding my own business in the trailer, playing solitaire. A truck with five young guys pulled into the lot and parked adjacent to our trailer. The trailer window was open, and I felt funny shutting it while they were standing right outside of it. They were pretty loud, and it was obvious that they had been drinking. Scott came back up when he heard loud voices. They said hello to him and he came into the trailer to join me. He figured that this rest area/parking lot may have been a hang out for the young locals. They only stayed about 20 minutes. As they pulled away they shouted, “Find another place to camp!” Ouch. We weren’t “camping.” We were simply resting overnight at a REST AREA.
The Redwood Coast consists of many State Parks that work cooperatively with the National Park Service. Usually, the National and State Parks operate separately but that is not the case for the Redwoods. It has to do with how the land was purchased. Most State and National Parks charge an entrance fee. You can purchase an annual National Park Pass for $80 and then entrance to any National Park is free. For entrance into State Parks, you can purchase a daily, weekly and even monthly pass in each state. For some reason, we NEVER had to pay or show our pass in the Redwood National and State Parks. Go figure.
“The Redwood Tree is the world’s tallest living tree – monarch of the North Coast -living link to the Age of Dinosaurs. Redwoods grow from seeds the size of a tomato seed yet can weigh 500 tons and stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. It’s foot-thick bark makes the tree all but impervious to fire and insects.”
We would spend the next three nights at Klamath River RV Park.
Our peaceful, tranquil site was located directly on the river.
Can you spot our RV across the river?
Our first hike was to The Tall Trees Grove. You have to get a special permit and a combination code at the Visitor’s Center in order to enter the gated access road.
We travelled down a wooded, winding road until we got to the trailhead. As we hiked, there were fallen Redwoods that hovered over the trail. Scott had to duck every now and then.
Some trees were even cut into to allow access down the path.
Each tree had its own beauty. Some barks were very bumpy near the ground.
Yet, when looking up, they were all towering towards the sky.
And, if you are lucky, you may see a burl (a dome-shaped growth on the trunk of a tree) that looks like a deer.
Then, there are the Redwoods that have “hollowed out” at the bottom. You can walk under them as well as through them.
While the grove consisted of mostly redwood trees, there was another odd looking tree with arms that extended from just above the ground to the height of the tree. The moss seemed to attached itself to every branch.
And, of course, there were beautiful wildflowers scattered here and there.
Our next stop was at Lady Bird Johnson Grove. This trail is handicap accessible and one of the more popular tourist spots.
After you park your car, you take a short walk on a bridge over the road below. (The picture below was taken on our way back out.)
There is a numbered trail map that is available for a $1.00 donation, or you can just borrow the map and return it at the end of your tour. The actual dedication took place about half-way into the short loop trail.
The trails were wide with hundreds of Rhododendron bushes, and there were still a few “rhodies” blooming. This place must be magical in the springtime.
It was fun catching Scott capturing the beauty surrounding us.
Before heading back to the trailer, we drove to High Bluff Overlook.
What a magnificent view! The sound of the ocean water crashing against the large boulders below was breathtaking. The drop is straight down and there are no barriers to stop you from falling over if you get too close to the edge. So, we looked very gingerly even though we wanted to get closer. It was pretty foggy out, but I took a few pictures anyway.
Scott returned later for sunset pictures. Be sure to check out his gallery.
We had to say goodbye to our first guest. We dropped my friend, Liz, off at San Francisco Airport and returned to Olema Campground to pack up. We got back on Route 101 north and drove as far as Richardson Grove Campground, which is located in a little town called Garberville.
This was another old campground as evidenced by the signage and bathrooms.
Once again, I am happy that we have our own shower. Directly across the street from this campground was Grandfather Tree. (If you zoom into the first picture above, you can see the signage for it). It turns out that the original owners of the land named the tree and created the signage to bring in more tourists. Their plan worked! Below is a pano shot of this mighty Redwood tree.
We were only staying there for one night. Around 8:00 p.m. on June 23, we were sitting in our trailer playing Scrabble when all of a sudden it felt like someone was shaking our trailer. The movement lasted about five seconds. Scott and I just looked at each other. Then, our neighbor to our left, came out of his trailer yelling, “That was an earthquake! We just felt an earthquake!” We later learned that it was definitely an earthquake that registered 5.4 on the Richter Scale, but we were not near the epicenter. It was well north of us. The picture below shows our neighbor’s trailer as well as our own in the spot where we were when we felt the earthquake. We are very thankful that is was just a baby quake.
The next morning we continued north, driving basically parallel to Route 101 on the famous scenic byway called “Avenue of the Giants.” This 32-mile scenic drive covering Humboldt Redwood State Park features many stop-off points where you can park and take a short hike.
We stopped at Franklin K. Lane Grove first. It was a short easy trail surrounded by green fern, three-leaf clovers, and many mighty Redwood Trees. The Redwoods are taller than the Sequoias, but some of them are almost as massive in terms of girth. Below are a few photos of both alive and fallen trees.
We actually booked our next campsite back in February. It was the only campground that we booked in advance because my friend, Lizzie, was coming to visit us on specific dates in June. My hope was to be able to stay in one of the state parks in Marin County (Samuel P. Taylor State Park or Tomales Bay State Park), but Olema Campground was the only one that had vacancies, and we booked it over four months out!
We were put in Site #144, a nice, shaded area located towards the back of the campground. It is difficult to REALLY know what you are getting when relying on websites. Pictures can be old and outdated. The clubhouse/registration area had seen better days, but the staff was quite friendly. The Post Office on sight had been closed for months due to flooding, and the repair work was slow moving. When I made the reservation back in February on the phone, I was told that our site was right near the water (Olema Creek). Well, the “water” was almost dried up, and many bushes and trees blocked us from it. Still, it was a nice, quiet spot toward the back of the campground. Our first night was quiet. The rest of the week, the place was filled with young campers.
The next morning, we picked up Lizzie at San Francisco Airport. We got her settled and then drove a short five minutes to the quaint little town of Port Reyes. We strolled about and found a bakery to die for. Liz would need to stop at this bakery every day she was here. The treats were to die for, and there was always a line.
One of the reasons that we picked Marin County was because our beloved Yoga Teacher, Natalie, had moved to the west coast many years ago. Liz and I used to travel two hours round trip to attend Natalie’s yoga classes in Central New Jersey before she moved out west. We always talked (teased) about having a girls weekend in California to visit with Natalie, and it finally happened. We were so lucky to be able to spend two days together with her, even though we didn’t do any yoga. The other reason we picked this location was because it is directly next to Point Reyes National Seashore, which was on my list of places to see while traveling through California.
A friend of mine had been to Point Reyes with her husband and said that they have the BEST fresh oysters that you shuck yourself. What I did NOT know about Olema Valley is that it lies directly on the San Andreas Fault, where the Pacific and North American continental plates meet. This is where the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake initiated when the peninsula leap 20 feet northwestward in less than a minute. They say it could happen again in 30 minutes or 300 years. Ouch. Scary.
Scott was our chauffeur and Natalie was our tour director. We started at Bear Valley Visitor Center to collect maps and some information. Then we drove on Sir Francis Drake Hwy toward the most western-tip of the peninsula, near the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the access road to the lighthouse was closed, so we headed to Chimney Rock.
As we got closer, we were able to see Elephant Seals resting along the shore. They didn’t move very much, but they were most certainly alive. We got a close up view with Scott’s binoculars, but in the still photo they look like grey rocks or logs.
Our next stop was Drakes Beach. It was a beautiful, very private beach surrounded by rocky cliffs.
Scott decided to check out the water temperature for me.
We moved on to Hog Island so that I could indulge in eating the BEST oysters I have ever tasted! The gal demonstrated how to shuck the oysters, and, thankfully, Scott watched along with me. Then, they send you off with a rubber glove and tools. You can pretty much guess what happened next. I mean, just look at those tools!
The next day Natalie joined us again and we headed to Muir Woods National Monument. On the way, we pulled over to have our picture taken above Muir Beach.
When we arrived at the entrance to Muir Woods, the parking was full. (Again, you need to make a reservation in advance to park your car!) Scott dropped the three girls off so that we could have a little time together.
You can walk the paved Redwood Creek Trail (also called Main Trail) in less than an hour. You can also choose short, medium, or long loops off the main trail. We chose to take an out and back trail, Canopy View Trail, which was an easy dirt trail that gained elevation slowly with its many switchbacks.
Eventually, we needed to turn around and go back down to Main Trail. We continued into Cathedral Grove, which is considered a sacred place, as many of the Redwood Trees are between 600 and 800 years old.
Our chauffeur picked us up and we took a ride southeast towards Sausalito, a quaint Italian-flare village. We walked around Gabrielson Park for a bit, and then stopped to watch young people navigate their sailboats on a very windy day.
We had to say good bye to Natalie with a promise to be back again in the future.
The next day Scott, Liz and I headed to San Francisco. We talked about taking the ferry across the bay, but it was pretty windy and chilly. Instead, we drove over the bridge and parked for free at Crissy Field Center. Liz and I began our walk towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
We walked halfway across the bridge, enjoying the view but not the noise! Afterward, we joined up with Scott again and walked for a few miles along the water towards the piers. We got as far as Fort Mason and hopped on a cable car to Union Square.
Union Square is a miniature Times Square, filled with tourists, street musicians, and many places to shop. And, of course, we saw the same sign again that we have been seeing since arriving in California in early May. No worries. No big deal. It’s just not a sign that I have been accustomed to seeing having grown up on the north east coast.
Early the next morning, we drove Liz back to the airport. Scott and I returned to Olema Campground to pick up the trailer, and headed north. Our next stop is Redwood National and State Parks.
As we drove out of Kings Canyon, I was in awe of the winding road coupled with the sound of the rushing Kings River and the natural beauty of a canyon.
Now, we were on our way to Yosemite. Over the years, I had heard many people talk about the beauty of Yosemite. Finally, we were about to see first hand what everyone had been talking about. What we didn’t know is that if you plan to stay anywhere in this National Park between late May and September, you have to make a reservation about five months in advance. Alas, we were unsuccessful in finding a place to stay inside the park, but we found a lovely place about 34 miles outside of the park at Yosemite RV Resort in Coarsegold, CA.
It was dry and HOT…100 degrees hot. Even the little bit of shade by the picnic table did not ease the heat, so I went up to the pool to socialize with other traveling folks. Surprisingly, the pool water was cool and refreshing! We got up early the next morning to drive into the park. It was about 54 miles to the start of the hike we had planned, and it took almost two hours to get there. It was 6:45 a.m. when we took this photo.
Scott had selected the popular Mist Trail, a 8.3 mile round-trip hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Part of this trail joins with the famous John Muir Trail. It is a strenuous uphill hike with an elevation gain of 2,082 feet.
We made our way over the Vernal Falls Bridge, not knowing what was to soon come.
The dirt trail was rather wide, with rocks lined up along the sides as borders. The drop off on the left got steeper as we walked up the canyon.
Today Scott used his Go-Pro rather than taking still photos. I didn’t know that he was going to include in his footage my half mile ascent up a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps. The hiking pamphlet (that we saw AFTER the hike) warned climbers to “prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer.” We were prepared to get a little wet, and we both put on our raincoats as we began to feel the cool mist. (I would later refer to the experience as a “Nor’easter”.) I had no idea it would feel like we were stuck in a bad rainstorm, or that after Scott passed me on the steps, that I would have a coughing/asthma attack coupled with snot streaming out of my nose, as I was pummeled with what felt like a water fire hose. I am sorry if I have grossed anyone out, but the truth is that I was having a bad moment. I just wanted to get to the top, out of the blast of water. Scott’s six-plus minute video below captures snippets of the entire hike. Expect a bit of cloudiness in the footage while he filmed what I have been referring to as the Nor-Easter. You can decide for yourself what to call it. Better yet, come to Yosemite in June to see for yourself.
Zoom in to the next photo. Besides capturing the beautiful rainbow, you can see hikers making their way up the winding staircase, feeling the powerful, wet mist from this massive waterfall. It certainly didn’t look or feel like a Nor-Easter from up above.
As we walked up even higher, the rainbow was still apparent. I became a happy camper again. Rainbows bring out the best in people.
When we reached the top of Vernal Falls, we found a plethora of people drying out on the rocks. We walked down to the edge where you could stand close to the top of Vernal Falls.
Around the bend, we found a quieter spot to dry ourselves off.
We continued on our hike to Nevada Falls. We were just below the top of it in the following picture.
We kept on hiking for another mile or so, and then we stopped to look back on Nevada Falls along with the exquisite granite walls.
At the end of Mist Trail, I noticed an unfamiliar container and wanted to get a closer look.
It was empty…I guess on call.
It took us a couple of hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get out of the park. As we drove along the winding road back to our campground, we decided that it wasn’t worth it to stay outside of the park since it involved too much driving back and forth. Unfortunately, we decided to leave the area and head up north to Lake Tahoe. Yosemite, we will be back!
We headed north towards Kings Canyon National Park with the hope of getting a spot in Sheep Creek Campground, which is located in the park.
Sheep Creek Campground had a delayed opening for today, Friday, June 7, as a result of an unusually high winter snowfall. They were behind schedule for cutting down the dead trees, and they had to push the opening to June 29. We were able to find a spot in another park campground, Moraine, which typically only accepts online reservations. They made an exception due to several campground closures in the park. They accepted walk-ins, but just for that day. It was spacious with lots of trees providing shade.
Once the we were all set in Site #81, we took the truck and went to see a popular spot called Grizzly Falls. There was a small parking lot off the main road, and only about 30 steps to the falls.
You are not able to climb up to see the top of the falls. You can get as close as you wish to the bottom, which was where the photo opportunities take place. The closer you get, the wetter you become. We had to wait in a “tourist” line to take our photos, so Scott wandered off to the side of the falls to check out the scenery there.
Directly across the street from Grizzly Falls was the rushing Kings River. We enjoyed listening to the sound of the river, too.
We returned to camp and took a twenty-minute walk through the woods to the Cedar Grove Hotel, which was on the other side of the river from our campsite. The “hotel” looked more like a rugged, old cabin, and it was situated right next to Kings River. Unfortunately, the food was on par with a fast-food restaurant. It did had lounge chairs lined up along the river’s edge, which was a nice touch.
Additionally, there were two pay phones outside of the hotel. Notice the “FREE CAllS” options. I certainly do not recall these options back in the day before cell phones when I recall using a pay phone. LOL
I thought it would be fun to call my daughter collect from the pay phone. (I didn’t really think about the logistics of this call.). She got a call from an unfamiliar number, asking her if she would accept a collect call from “Susan Fisher”. Once she said “yes”, they asked for her credit card number. It was no longer funny. She hung up. I could have easily used MY credit card to call her from the pay phone, but that would have taken away from the fun of calling her collect. You can see in the video how funny I think that I am, until she doesn’t answer the call. I didn’t realize that she had denied it until later.
The next day we hiked about 13 miles round trip along the roaring Kings River to Mist Falls and Lower Paradise Valley.
The first two miles of this hike was a lined, dirt path that ran along the rushing river.
The landscape was not only picturesque with colorful flowers along the way, but the river was roaring down the canyon in a spectacular show. It is pointless to try to have a conversation unless you shout. Listen for yourself.
As we got closer to Lower Paradise Valley, we could no longer hear the sound of rushing water. Instead, we were climbing up switchbacks of rocky steps for about a half hour.
It finally leveled off as we reached the beginning of the camping area (reservations required), and found a nice rock on the water to enjoy a peaceful lunch.
As we turned around and made our way back down, you could see snow capped mountains in the distance. Simply gorgeous!
We also saw several lizards, one Rattlesnake, one King Snake, and a Mule deer, however no pictures were taken. You will have to take my word for it.
On our last day in Kings Canyon, Moraine Campground began their weekday schedule of burning dead trees. The smoke was beginning to encroach us, so we decided to take a hike on the Don Cecil Trail. The trailhead was located in our campground. It was a 4.8 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of almost 4,000 feet. This would not be an easy hike, but it would take us away from the smell of smoke.
Less than a mile in, we crossed over Sheep Creek Cascade.
It was a pretty warm day, and we both were sweating. As we looked off to our right, we could see the cool, snow-capped mountains.
A little farther up, we could see the smoke bellowing from below.
For the first time, we saw a red alien-looking plant that I thought was a flower. You tell me.
In case you really want to know…
Sarcodes is the monotypic genus of a north-west American flowering springtime plant in the heath family (Ericaceae), containing the single species Sarcodes sanguinea, commonly called the snow plant or snow flower. It is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to roots of trees. Lacking chlorophyll, it is unable to photosynthesize.Ectomycorrhizal (EM)symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus. This form of parasitism is known as mycoheterotrophy.
We took a short break so that Scott could fill his water bladder from the stream. He hasn’t done this since last summer when we were hiking in Colorado. I don’t find much difference in the taste of our water, but he does.
As we continued on, there was continued evidence of deadfall among the living.
This wasn’t a very picturesque hike. The dead trees made me sad, and the constant uphill was challenging. Less than one mile from Summit Meadow, I called it quits. I did NOT want to go UP anymore. I encouraged Scott to finish the hike to the peak, but he refused. We began our retreat, and I didn’t look back.
We had paid to stay at Moraine Campground for two more nights, but we left a day early the following morning. They would be burning trees every morning for the entire week. Next stop, Yosemite National Park.
On the morning of June 4, we drove up to where Scott had parked our trailer in Sequoia National Forest.Most of the snow that Scott had enjoyed was gone by the time of my arrival.
Scott took me for a walk around the area.Not far from our camp was a beautiful stream.
After dinner, we took a walk in the opposite direction to watch the sun set.Simply beautiful.
The next day we drove into the park.What a difference a week can make in June.
Scott wanted to take me to see Tokopah Falls.It was a short, mostly flat 3.4 miles round-trip hike on Tokopah Valley Trail.
At the entrance, we saw the following warning sign. Yikes!
It was a delightful day with warm temperatures and a cool breeze from the water, much unlike the day that Scott hiked here alone.
We sat down on a rock for a little while to smell the fresh, clean air and feel a gentle spritzing from the falls.
I could easily sit all day and listen to the rushing sound of the water. So, I will share it with you.
Scott has the eye for just where to stand to capture the beauty unfolded in front of us.
Afterwards, we drove to the Sherman Tree Trail, a short hike down to the location of the world’s largest tree (in terms of mass not height). The General Sherman Tree is massive.I just looked up in awe of it’s magnificence.
Here is an panoramic view.
As you can see, the tree is fenced off to protect it from human hands.
As we continued down the path, there were other trees in the park that were more accessible.
Here is a panoramic view.
Then he told me to hug the tree. Of course, I could only grab a small part of it!All I wanted was to be one in the same with them.
On Thursday, we headed to Muir Grove Trail, a four-mile round trip hike.The trail head was located in Dorset Campsite, which was closed due to the cutting down of trees that were in danger of falling.From our parked truck, we had to walk about two miles down the road and then wait until we were given the okay by park personnel to proceed.
Below is a tree that was being prepped to fall.
We passed the workers and continued towards the trail head.
We wandered through the pine tree forest for two miles enjoying the almost-silent hum of a small stream and the occasional remnants of snow.All of a sudden, the sequoia’s made their presence know. Can you see Scott?
Giant Sequoia Trees live in the Sierra Nevada between 5,000 – 7,000 feet.They are the largest living trees, having more wood than redwoods due to width and height.They often get mistaken for redwoods (they are the same family and are more like a “cousin” to them).They may NOT be used for lumber and are a protected resource.What I found to be so unusual is that for such an enormous tree, they have a cone the size of a chicken’s egg.
Scott said, “It would be a magical experience to spend the night in that grove.” We stood there feeling small amidst the enormity of the sequoias.
Here is the view looking up.
By the time we got back to the trailer, the clouds had become grey, and we enjoyed a short-lived hail storm. It was a spectacular day! Tomorrow morning we will head north to Kings Canyon National Park.
Scott returned to San Diego and spent part of May 30th at SunLand RV Resort catching on up his sleep, as he had been up for 27 hours since leaving NJ. He had roughly four days alone until he had to return to San Diego to pick me up.He drove straight to Sequoia National Forest and boon docked just outside of Sequoia National Park.
The weather was chilly, with daytime temps in the 60’s and low 40’s at night. On his first night there, he watched the sun set over the horizon.
The following morning, he hiked up to Tokopah Falls on the Kaweah River. He wanted to check it out before taking me there. Here is a glimpse of his hike that day.
On Saturday, he began a ten-mile round trip hike towards Heather Lake, but turned back less than two miles in due to snow. See for yourself.
Look closely at the picture below. Zoom in for a chilling experience. It looks like a fresh print.
In one more day, our adventure together would start up again.
We After four days exploring in Joshua Tree National Park, we headed west on 10 to 86S to 22S to S3 to 78W to 79S to 8W to 5N and into San Diego. We travelled past the San Felipe Hills, up and down winding roads with varying landscapes. I love taking pictures while we are driving since I am pretty much always the passenger, especially when we are towing the trailer behind us. Not only does it give me something to do, but I have become awestruck with the changing terrain.
Our home for the next two weeks was located between the two main highways in San Diego, Routes 8 and 5. It doesn’t look that way from the picture below, but if you were here with us, you can “hear” the truth.
We are the first slot in Row A, which is just to the right of the Santa Fe sign in the picture above. The light colored building #5707 to the left is the main office plus all of their amenities. The pool and jacuzzi are in the front on ground level, and there are rental apartments on the second floor. There is a large community room for cooking and relaxing. In addition to a large kitchen with two separate ovens, it features a pool table, a ping-pong table, two bar-style tables with four chairs each, about six chairs and one flat screen television on the wall. It’s a great place to practice my yoga. Behind this recreational room is a new laundry room complete with ten washing machines and ten dryers. There is also a small gym with treadmills, free weights, a few weight-strengthening machines, as well as a conference room that can be partitioned off for privacy. Everything and anything we need is within a relatively short driving distance. It’s just very noisy compared to where we have been. It is a major city after all.
We were told by office staff that we need to be careful that our bikes don’t get stolen. They have been having problems with stolen bicycles recently. The bikes, as well as our new water toys, are now all locked and covered behind the trailer.
Our first day here we took a short drive to Mission Beach and took a two-hour walk along the Pacific Ocean. It was breezy with warm temperatures, but it was a little too cold to be swimming, but just perfect for getting your feet wet.
It looks just like the Jersey Shore, doesn’t it?
Later, we met my nephew, Patrick, and his beautiful dog, Harley, for lunch at Fat Fish Cantina grill on Mission Blvd. Margaritas and sea bass. Yum!
On Friday morning, we decided to check out the trails at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego. No charge for parking or admission.
It was a series of rolling hills with multiple trails breaking off to offer varying terrain. We chose the South Fortuna and North Fortuna Loop, a 6.3 mile trek with a 1,348’ elevation gain, that we completed in just under three hours. It is outlined below in yellow.
While it wasn’t crowded, it is obviously a popular spot for locals. There are 24 trails that you can choose from, and you can decide if you want to get your heart rate up or prefer to take an easy stroll. When we began the hike, it was mostly cloudy with quite comfortable hiking conditions.
The green hills slowly added bursts of yellow.
Beyond the stunning sea of yellow, you can see many homes built high on the hills.
In addition to the sea of yellow were spurts of other stunning colors.
Finally, we saw even deeper, darker yellow flowers with an orange center. Simply beautiful!
It was still a bit cloudy when we reached the first peak.
It wasn’t long before the sun broke through the morning clouds and we could feel the humidity. We don’t know if it was smog or some sort of haze that prevented us from seeing the Pacific Ocean in the background.
I felt really good today, even though my expression above clearly says something to the contrary. My bronchitis is over and it’s time to get the lungs functioning better again.
Somewhat close to the end of the trail, there was a bicycle pump available for use. We have never seen this on any hike before. Maybe its a California thing?
We plan to go back and hike here again, as well as do some mountain biking, which is allowed on some of the trails. Goodbye bronchitis. Hello climbing heart rate!
On Saturday, we took our second beach excursion to Windansea Beach, which is just south of La Jolla. After the clouds blew away this morning, the sun was once again out and shining. The air temperature was in the mid 70’s, which made for very comfortable beach weather. We parked for free on a side street and walked one short block to the free beach. If you zoom in on the picture below, you can see the surfers.
The water temperature was roughly 64 degrees, and it was only chilly when you first got in. The surf was quite rough. Right after I took this selfie, I lost my balance, went up in the air, and landed on my right butt cheek. Luckily, I saved the phone from getting wet. I am a nut. I will probably have yet ANOTHER bruise.
There was a wedding taking place about 250 feet from where we were sitting. I took a picture, but it looks like I missed the bride. She was gorgeous! I wonder what the odds are for good weather for a Californian beach wedding in May.
Scott braved the rough water much longer than I did. I was happy on my blanket.
We walked back to our car, changed out of our wet clothes, and had a picnic lunch. Then, we went back to the beach to sit for awhile and take in the landscape.
What a gorgeous day! When we left, we passed many homes with meticulously landscaped front yards. Albeit small, I really loved this setup.
La Jolla Cove was our third beach to visit. It is a small, picturesque cove and beach that is surrounded by cliffs. The Cove is protected as part of a marine reserve; underwater it is very rich in marine life, and is popular with snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers. There were many group kayakers with guides as this is a popular spot for non-motor boat sports as well.
It was a perfect day to be out on the water. Although it was only in the mid-sixties, the bright sun felt wonderful as we rowed about, around, and through the cave. We saw several seals taking in the sun, as groups of seabirds hung out above on the edges of the cliffs. After two hours of frolicking, we headed back to shore. I had only done this once before, and at that time I easily flipped my kayak over. As I reminded myself to keep the kayak facing the shoreline to stay afloat, it took only a second for it to flip over. I scrambled to catch my hat, suntan lotion, and YETI water bottle. Now, I am zero for two for kayak landing. Scott got onto shore with no mishaps. I had to wait on the boardwalk with the kayaks while he went to get the truck. I was FREEZING!!!! All of a sudden, that light wonderful breeze was ripping through my wet clothing. My lips even turned blue! It may be time to invest in a wetsuit.
Monday morning was cloudy and cool with the threat of rain. We were trying to decide what to do. By 11:00, the sun began to peek out, and we took a ride to Black’s Beach near Glider port in Torrey Pines bluffs. We were dressed to hike, not swim since it was only in the low 60’s. This beach is best known for the great surfing, and a section of it is a legal nude beach. We liked the idea of a 300-foot hike down to the beach, but you wouldn’t catch me carrying a surfboard with me. These are die-hard surfers who have no problem carrying their board down and then back up the 300-foot cliff, and they are there wearing swim shorts or wet suits. I felt a little uncomfortable seeing naked men walking along the shore. Where does one look? So awkward. In the photo below, I am looking south. You can see some paragliders in the background. It looks so cool, but I have no desire to try that sport.
The next picture was taken at 200 steps up from the bottom. It doesn’t look as steep as it really was.
Our next hike was El Cajon Mountain, which is a 10.6 miles lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Lakeside, CA.
It is a mountain in the Cuyamaca Mountains, and is a prominent natural landmark in the East County of San Diego. The summit of El Cajon Mountain is at 3648 feet. The mountain is almost completely surrounded by private property or and indian reservation, but the mountain itself is mostly within the Cleveland National Forest or the County of San Diego’s El Capitan Open Space Preserve. There are many different hikes and climbs up El Cajon Mountain, with difficulties ranging from a class 1 hike all the way up to a class 3 scramble. All the climbs are difficult due to the considerable elevation gain. The trail head is located within the community of Lakeside, CA. We parked in the lot and made our way up a road to reach the trailhead.
Most of the trail was dirt covered and surrounded by luscious greenery.
The flowers were also in bloom, and the smell of lavender was ever present.
Luckily, it was overcast throughout the entire hike. It would have been uncomfortable with the sun as there were no shady spots. At times, the clouds were engulfing us.
Then we came upon a most unusual sign, which we have never seen while hiking.
I actually thought about turning around since it would not be just going back down, but rather down and up and down and up. This was a tricky hike. We continued on another two miles until we reached this sign.
At this point, we were so close to the summit. The terrain became narrow and rocky. We made it!
Scott noted that the boulder behind us was the true summit.
He wanted me to join him. This was my reaction.
It took of just over five hours to go 10.5 miles. Total elevation gain was 3,616 feet, even though the summit was slightly higher than that number. I was very tired, but I felt really good when it was over. We need more of this in our daily lives.
No cooking that evening. Better to spend it with my nephew again. We dined at The Fish Market Restaurant, Top of the Market, at the San Diego bayside.
We walked around outside after our meal and took in the sights. We saw the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military and the Kissing sailor statue also known as Unconditional Surrender Statue.
The next day we became tourists with an old army buddy of Scott’s that lives in San Diego. Charlie picked us up and our day together began with lunch at George’s at the Cove, a famous seafood restaurant overlooking La Jolla Cove. The seals were playfully barking below to my delight.
Our next stop was Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Park which offers great views of the city.
We got back in the car and drove to Seaport Village.
Charlie pointed out various famous locations as we continued our tour.
I had no problem being a back seat passenger.
Thursday, May 9th, was Scott’s 56 birthday. He enjoyed a home-made Italian dinner of Bow Tie Pasta with sautéed vegetables and sweet sausage, finished off with a dollop of ricotta cheese. Yummy!
His birthday gift was a map of the United States National Parks. Now we can track our progress. Red pins reflect 2018 park visits, green pins are for 2019 park visits, and the white pins represent places we have skied.
We couldn’t leave San Diego without going to the San Diego Zoo. One of the highlights of the day was this very silly orangutan who entertained the humans.
We were lucky to get up close to a Grizzly Bear who was preparing to eat.
My favorite animal, the monkey, entertained the humans as well with their acrobatic stunts. Here are some babjust hanging out and contemplating life.
Since walking around the zoo all day in cool temperatures wasn’t enough, we went home to take a quick nap, shower and then headed over to the Civic Center to see Jerry Seinfeld live.
Another famous landmark is the Coronado Hotel.
You can get to it by taking the ferry…
…or by driving across the bridge, which is how we traveled.
What better way to end our travels in San Diego than to be guests at my nephew’s home. He was quite the griller, and his home that he shares (with two other male roommates ANd a large dog) was spotless. Needless to say, I was very impressed. It was a great evening!
How many times did we watch the replay of the final second of the game when Toronto beat Philadelphia in the NBA Conference Semifinals? What an exciting win for Toronto!
The time has come to leave Southern California. We will be storing our RV and heading back to Jersey for my mom’s 90th birthday party and a wedding. To be continued…
We traveled west on Hwy 10, exiting Arizona, and entered Southern California. I noticed that the landscape was still very much desert like, however you could now see snow capped mountains in the distance.
We wanted to stay in one of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park, but it was still extremely hot, and Scott knew that I would be a happier camper if we could use our A/C. Instead, we stayed at a KOA RV Park in Hot Springs, CA, that was located about 30 minutes outside of the national park. It was a typical KOA. It had a nice wind break behind us, but the sites were on top of each other. It was pretty empty, too. The few of us that were there were clumped together in the same area.
We got settled and relaxed for the remainder of the day. The wind was keeping the high heat at bay. It ended up being cooler than expected over night. In the morning, we headed to the park.
We went into the Visitor’s Center at the northwest entrance to get a map of the park so we could figure out what to do first. I took a picture while inside the Center of the map below. It was very helpful in pinpointing exactly where we were in California.
The poster below caught my eye. Any idea why???
Deserts don’t have firm boundaries, and much of the park lies in the overlap between the Colorado and Mojave deserts. This transition zone has a wealth of biological diversity and is home to species characteristic of each desert ecosystem. We were fortunate to see several over the course of our stay here. The western half of the park, at elevations above 3,000 feet, is Mojave Desert habitat. The wild-armed Joshua tree can be found in the Mojave Desert. It isn’t really a tree but a species of yucca. They can grow to be over 40 feet tall.
We left the Visitor’s Center and began driving south on Park Boulevard. It didn’t take long before we realized that we had never seen anything like this before. These trees/cacti were so unusual, and there were many large rock formations interspersed among the trees.
For our first hike, we chose Ryan’s Mountain. It was a three mile, out-and-back trail with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. It was sunny and windy with temps in the low 70’s which make for great hiking weather. The park lists this hike as strenuous, but All Trails rates it as moderate. We felt that it was mostly easy, with sections that were moderate.
The wildflower colors (lavender, fuchsia, yellow, red, orange and deep purple) were stunning! Some were in clusters and some stood alone on one stem. Magnificent!
The views from the 5,458’ summit were worth the effort.
Here is a little footage of our descent.
After Ryan’s hike, we got back in the car and continued to drive southeast on Park Boulevard. The eastern half Our next stop would be Cholla Cactus Gardens. Again, we had seen nothing like this before. This desert landscape was truly unique, filled with cactus plants we had never seen before.
I would take pictures of Scott taking pictures…
…and this is what his camera produced.
Here are a few close-ups of this unique cacti.
A little farther south we would pass Ocotillo Patch. This plant bears one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. There is a tourist standing behind the tree which provides height perspective.
We called it a day and headed back to camp. For one night, we had neighbors right next to us that were from Austria. They had rented a RV and were traveling with a three year old boy and a ten-month baby girl. I give them credit. This way of traveling is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about little ones. It’s hard enough dealing with big ones.
Before we headed out of our KOA campsite the next morning, I decided to check out the mineral pools. Although this resort was dated and in need of some renovations, they did have three small mineral pools and one larger mineral swimming pool. I forced myself to just go in once…and I am happy that I made that choice.
Since no one was around, I got to enjoy my own private pool. Before I left, I couldn’t resist but to take a picture of this sign posted by the pool.
Needless to say, I was a bit concerned with my surroundings and very much attentive to every step I took. Thankfully, I never saw one scorpion.
On Monday morning the temperatures were a bit cooler, so we left the KOA and found a site open in Belle Campground, which was located inside Joshua Tree National Park. Not only is it cheaper to stay inside a National Park versus a KOA, but it is usually more quiet, tranquil and picturesque.
Here we are at Site 18.
We took about a three-mile walk through our campsite, and we saw about five lizards, one black-tailed jackrabbit, and one small antelope ground squirrel. Later, burgers were on the menu for dinner, and I usually do the grill cooking. The weather was changing and it was very windy. So, Scott set up the grill to protect it from the wind.
It was also a little cloudy that evening, but Scott was determined to catch a sunset with his camera. I think what he captured below is nothing shy of amazing. I plan to enter this photo into a contest.
Do you see that strike of lightning dead center? Totally cool.
The next morning, it was 49 degrees outside and 56 degrees in the trailer. Brrrrrrr. Nothing better than to get up and get out since it was perfect “desert” hiking weather. Today’s choice was a 7.5 mile, out-and-back hike called “Lost Palms Oasis”. It featured sandy washes and rolling terrain until you hike down into a canyon to explore a fan palm oasis. At the start of the hike, we saw massive palm trees pictured below. We wouldn’t see them again until we reached the oasis.
While we walked, we saw beautiful, colorful desert flowers…
…a large tortoise…
…and two rattlesnakes…
This is the FIRST time that I didn’t freak out when I saw a snake. I am proud of myself that I was able to walk past both of them without hyperventilating. Scott is right. They want nothing to do with us. Leave them alone and they will be on their way.
After about two-and-a-half hours, we made it to the oasis. It doesn’t make sense to have this view in the middle of the desert.
We were resting on a rock and looking up at this.
We walked around, taking in the unimaginable view.
After relaxing for a little while and enjoying the midday breeze, we headed back out another 3.5 miles. The ocotillo flower could very well be my new favorite! Something about the color red.
We got back to the trailer, ate lunch, and then took a nap. Later that evening, we took a drive to “Hall of Horrors”, which was recommended by a friend of Dani’s. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera which meant Scott was the only one taking pictures. He climbed up about 30+ feet onto a large boulder and set up his tripod. I declined to follow as I wasn’t so keen on the idea of having to come back down. He is taking a picture of me from his perch, which was much higher than this picture denotes.
Much later that night, I went to bed to read…
…and Scott went back out to check on the night sky.